Now that Google+ Pages have been live for over a week and thereâ€™s a lot less noise amongst the digerati, itâ€™s time for a short guide for businesses.
Google+ Pages: an overview
After a couple of months with Google+ ope only for individuals, last Monday Google+ Pages were introduced for businesses and brands, helping them to connect with their customers and fans, whether recommending a page with a +1 button or using the concept of circles for targeted messages for groups of customers.
Google+ is now available to all brands with Pages that can share publicly and connect with more than 40 million users (Source: Google Q3 Earnings call).
What’s new in Google+?
One of the more immediate and distinct features for businesses are Hangouts (here’s an funny one with the Muppets), a realtime video chat that was previously available only to individual users, and promises to be a great tool for customer service.
Direct ConnectÂ (video above) is another feature that shows how serious Google is about Google+, allowing a brand with a Page to take advantage of Google Search distribution, by quickly navigating from search results to a brand’s Page using the + prefix, prompting autocompletion.
Currently Direct Connect is assumed algorithmically, by picking up authenticity signals, but a brand can speed up the process by placing a Google+ badge,Â icon or rich snippet on the brand’s website and making sure the brand’s URL is on the Google+ Page profile.
If you’re a local business, there’s a couple of additional fields that will help your company to be found, integrating with Google Places and Google Maps.
From small and medium businesses to bands, media companies or global brands, the new Google+ service is going beyond the traditional social network, extending the Google experience, making tribute to their name Google+.
Are my customers on Google+?
With over 500 million people using Googleâ€™s services, if theyâ€™re not, they will. Despite all the naysayers that expect one more big social fail by Google, this is a platform play. Again: itâ€™s more than a social network, it Google PLUS. The Google experience evolved. You can no longer escape from noticing the dark grey bar on all Googleâ€™s verticals, and reaching a critical mass is around around the corner (expect 100 million users before the year ends).
What you probably should be concerned is: how can my brand be meaningful in Google+?
You can start by educating your newly found Google+ customers, something that the Official Google+ Page for business is doing right on their photostrip.
If you pay close attention to the area highlighted in red above, that’s a Google+ page with a designatedÂ administrator (multiple admins are coming in the near future), so you can also start thinking about who will you add as public spokesperson for the page. I for once would welcome the transparency of, unlike Facebook pages, actually knowing who is behind the brand presence.
Start experiment with Google+ features and find out what works best with your fans, something that seasoned Facebook community managers do often. The discussion generated by regular Google+ users is more insightful and rewarding for community managers than whatâ€™s to be found on Facebook, mostly due to the early adopter fan base that the service has now.
One rather interesting feature of Google+ Pages is that you can actually add people to Page Circles once people mention you Page or add it to their circles. This is a great way to target your updates, form sub-groups or even do multivariate testing. The only problem is to actually build your circles from the start, as big audiences will become a nightmare to segment and circles are limited currently to 5000 people. Take care of being to pushy, as when someoneÂ uncirclesÂ your page, they’re also removed from your Page created circles.
One last thing regarding your customers: promotions, coupons and deals are prohibited, a welcomed change from Facebook, where brands build the wrong kind of audiences using these tactics. And it’s not confirmed yet if ads will be present in the future on Google + Pages and Profiles.
Should I create a Google+ Page for my business?
You should at least secure the presence and establish a coherent branding with other channels (namely Facebook). I spoke recently about brandjacking for the BBC , as misappropriation of brand pages by cybersquatters can happen quite frequently. Reserving the presence and reassuring your fans that it is an official presence should be a preemptive measure while you figure out what to do next.
When deciding to advance to a more structured and continuous presence, you should evaluate this new channel according to your overall business strategy. Lead generation is probably the most affected metric, considering how Direct Connect and +1 buttons will influence SERPs. Make no mistake about it: if you have a substantial traffic coming from search, buckle up as the new search algorithm changes kick in. Google has always been about collective intelligence, and having vibrant communities on Google+ Pages will only do good for leading brands by attracting even more organic traffic. With Google Search Side Ads disappearing, the space is prone to be filled or influenced by +1 signals.
What about branding and creative?
Hold your horses,as Google+ Pages are quite limited, design wise.
The top photostrip is currently the main spotlight for brands trying to make themselves noted, with a few ones worth checking out:
Creating the images for the scrapbook is rather easy, you just need to slice 5 consecutive images of 125×125 pizels.
The square profile picture can also be explored, considering it alternates between the two most recent profile photos. Try uploading 2 profile pictures and click on them afterwards, to see what happens. Hereâ€™s the +Page Â for this blog, and me peckabooing on the backside :).
On the right sidebar you can also add recommended links, but I wouldn’t mess around too much with those, as it might confuse your users. But having aÂ comprehensiveÂ list of your main web presences won’t hurt you.
Also of notice is the fact that Pages can share animated GIFs on their timeline (check the Burrberry scrapbook). If individuals users had their share of memes before businesses entering Google+, itâ€™s about time the brands do their share of +culture now 🙂
Adapting some Facebook tactics such as posting images, open questions or asking people to +1 should work fine with brands also.
A few things missing
Google+ Page currently doesn’t provide pretty permalinks / vanity URLs, with Google using only canonical permalinks, with the Â formatÂ https://plus.google.com/[yourpageID] – find out [yourpageID] by clicking on the Get Started button on the left menu.
Moderation features are limited, with single administrator (no roles), the ability to remove comments and no word filters.
Also, the metrics available are quite limited, with only a few analytics picked up withÂ Webmaster ToolsÂ or integrating Social on Google Analytics. And you know it sucks changing tools instead of showing data in context (hint: Facebook per post insights). Hopefully this will change in the coming weeks, along with better API integration.
From sharing your new presence on Google+ Pages on your other channels, to adjusting editorial calendars (please, don’t just syndicate), it’s still early to find definitive best practices. Having a record for great social media practices will help you set apart in these first few weeks, so make the most of it while you can. As user base grows, it will become increasingly harder to get noticed.
If you know any more tips to add here, drop a note in the comments.